E=mc2

Physics - Fact and Fancy

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The equation, E = mc2, is perhaps the most famous equation on earth.  It is one of the results of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  What is says is that mass and energy are the same physical property related to each other by the factor c2.  C is the speed of light, having a very large value of 186,000 miles/second.  When you square this number, you get a much larger number.  What this means is that a little bit of mass makes a whole lot of energy!

In the 1900’s, scientists began to speculate that a reaction called ‘nuclear fission’ might be used to produce a weapon of mass destruction.  Einstein himself sent a letter to President Roosevelt suggesting this matter be explored and FDR funded what has been called, The Manhattan Project.  This project succeeded in exploding the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico.  There are countless stories about this explosion!  This is one of these stories that I like to tell:  The group had placed the bomb on a steel girder of some form with the idea that they could study the remains and determine the strength of the bomb.  After the explosion, they could not find any part of the steel.  It was completely disintegrated.  

A few days later, August 6, a bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  It was estimated that 250,000 people died in the initial explosion.  When the Japanese Emperor did not surrender, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, and on August 16th Hirohito surrendered, bringing an end to WWII.

When I was at undergraduate school in University of Louisiana at Monroe, I wrote a paper on whether or not these bombings were necessary.  After extensive reading and research, I concluded that they were.  The loss of Japanese lives was, of course, horrendous, but if the US had been forced to invade Japan, the loss of both American and Japanese lives would have been far worse!

To this day, the U.S. is the only nation to explode a nuclear bomb as an act of war.  A future article will be on one of my greatest fears in relation to this.  

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